WARNING: FULL SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES SEASON 8 EPISODE 2 “A KNIGHT OF THE THE SEVEN KINGDOMS” BELOW
Game of Thrones’ final season picks up steam with a sobering affair that hammers home the gravity of the impending battle for Westeros’ soul, while giving fans hope that this final season will live up to everything we want it to be.
With the much anticipated clash with the Night King’s army on the horizon, this episode largely takes place on the night before the battle, as Winterfell’s most important inhabitants search for the best way to spend what may well be the last night of their lives. The heavy subject matter is mirrored perfectly by the tone of this episode, which rang with a somber melancholy punctuated by fleeting moments of hope.
Setting much of this episode in the middle of the night worked a charm as the unusually quiet, abandoned halls of Winterfell juxtaposed with the anxious air of the characters involved to give this episode a unique atmosphere that makes it stand out from the crowd.
Undoubtedly, the biggest show-stealer was the dynamic between Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie). Following Jaime’s arrival and acceptance by the powers that be in Winterfell, Jaime caught up with his brother Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) before quickly abandoning him to pursue time with Brienne and asking to fight under her command. These two have one of the most layered and compelling relationships on television; from sworn enemies, captor/prisoner, forced allies to respected confidants with the potential of romance bubbling beneath, so every time these two share the screen, it becomes must-see.
The best moment of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms came in the scene that inspired the episode’s title, as the Lannister brothers, along with an increasingly ragtag collection of warriors sat in front of the hearth swapping stories and drinking their worries away. After trying to explain to wildling Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) the formalities of knighthood in the Seven Kingdoms, Jaime mentions that any knight can make another knight and offers to bestow the status on Brienne to illustrate his point. Despite Brienne’s lifelong dream being to receive knighthood, she shows reluctance to be used as a guinea pig but eventually acquiesces.
The vision of Brienne’s beaming smile erupting through her usually stoic facade after being knighted is one that will endure long after the series ends. It was a heart-warming, defining moment in Brienne’s journey and stood out as a moment of pure joy at an otherwise hopeless time.
One moment that received a lot of backlash was Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and her R-Rated escapades. Unlike others who used alcohol to numb the fear of what awaits them the next day, Arya opted for a more physical option, bedding Gendry (Joe Dempsie) in a moment that left millions awkwardly staring at the floor for modesty’s sake. The controversy that this scene caused reveals an interesting dichotomy in many viewers; that part of our minds that expect this sort of explicit content from Game of Thrones and calculates that Maisie Williams is actually in her twenties by now and the less logical part that will always see her as little Arya Stark, making this exchange feel inherently wrong regardless.
The installment’s biggest head-scratcher came in the form of Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) decision to reveal his true identity to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). It’s well established that Jon is honest and honourable, but to bring the legitimacy of Daenerys’ claim to the throne into question the night before the battle, jeopardising their alliance and potentially risking the lives of everyone in Westeros, rather than wait until after the battle to tell her made little sense. Just as immersion shattering was Danerys’ bemused reply:
“A secret no one in the world knew, except your brother and your best friend. Doesn’t seem strange to you?” – Which came across as more of a meta comment on the contrived, Hollywood turn that their story had taken.
One final, unexpected star of the episode was Jenny of Oldstones. As the spirits of those gathered around the hearth dwindled and most were ready to call it a night, Tyrion sought to keep the night going with a song, leading Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) to serenade them with a melancholy rendition of Jenny of Oldstones. A song used to great effect as it played over scenes of several of the episodes featured characters in vulnerable states, appreciating what they treasure most for potentially the last time before heading into battle. As we’ve seen in the past, this is another example of the show’s excellent use of music to underline its message, bolstered by the addition of Florence and the Machine’s haunting version of the song playing over the closing credits which was an ideal way to punctuate the episode’s themes.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a somber, brooding entry that acts as the polar opposite to what we will see in Episode 3’s epic, large scale bloodbath, yet it goes hand-in-hand as the perfect setup. Memorable, hard-hitting and well written, this was a reminder that Game of Thrones’ contemplative installments can be just as impactful as its most gruesome.